Prelude and Fugue in A Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is one of the composer's "most famous and celebrated works," and organist J. Reilly Lewis gave the audience what it longed to hear in dramatic fashion.
Rose Lamoreaux rendered beautiful selections from "The American Songbook," and even if you don't especially like "sing-alongs," the concert ending with the "sing-along" to "The Gloucestershire Wassail" was fun.
The church crowd, no different from most, warmed up to the music it knew best, like Lamoreaux's "Embraceable You," which she delivered with an operatic voice which seemed as natural as candles burning brightly at Christmastime.
"The 12 Days of Christmas" is not heard much anymore, ("Hallelujah! Hallelujah!"), but Lamoreaux sang a well-received comedic version, although some of the words were inaudible at the back of the church.
John Hurd, St. Columba's director of music, accompanied her on the piano, and the combination suggested a pleasing piano bar.
With eyes closed to some of her selections, a Pat Boone movie came to mind, a name unknown to millennials, no doubt, but where were they? Not in church on New Year's Eve, that's for sure. The youngest person seen or heard was a baby at the rear of the church who gave a couple of quick shout-outs during the concert.
Truly, the best part of the evening was saved for the last since the first part of the program seemed a weird assortment with no hint of celebration in the air. Perhaps, the programmers had heard the newscasters all label 2014 "a terrible year; an awful year," and they followed suit.
Opening the concert was Grand Dialogue in C by Louis Marchand (1669-1732), "a good representative of the early French organ school" which church organist, Diane Heath, played splendidly, but "funereal" is a good adjective to describe most of the contents.
Concerto No. 6 in D Major by Antoni Soler i Ramos (1729-1783) for organ (played by Lewis) and harpsichord (Ann Colgrove) was at times energetic and joyful, but that the composer was a monk came as no surprise since the mix of instruments promised a more pleasing outcome than what was enjoyed.
The most beautiful piece of the evening was "The Beatitudes" by Arvo Part (b. 1935), sung by The New Year's Eve Chorale whose names were omitted from the program. Judy Dodge, St. Columba's director of music emerita, conducted.
The writer of the excellent program notes, Cathy Kreyche, was recognized for her skill and concise descriptions of music histories and biographies.
Thirty minutes before the program began at 6 p.m., the church's pews were already about two-thirds filled, and concertgoers continued to drift in 40 minutes after the music started.
When the concert ended around 7:15 p.m., all were invited to a champagne reception at the church before partiers headed out into the evening to renew auld acquaintances and welcome new ones, and maybe, a new year that's not so "awful."
Inside the church, arrangements of greens with small pine cones and tiny white carnations stood tall at the end of every other row of pews, and one wished the candles in their centers had been lighted to complement the seasonal setting. Large green wreaths festooned with big red, velvet ribbons hung on the walls above heaters where members of the audience laid their coats for post-concert warmth.
About 250 attended the concert which charged a "suggested" $20 per adult. The money will be used for the church's music program, said a staff member.
The concert is held annually, a wonderful tradition for the end of the year.
St. Columba's, located in northwest Washington at 4201 Albemarle Street, has more than 3,000 members. It was founded in 1874.